Was Edward VIII Really a Nazi, and Hitler's War Buddy? 'The Crown' Season 2 Addresses 'Vergangenheit'

The Crown Season 2 finally tackles the dark underbelly of Edward VIII's personality and political leanings after carefully tip-toeing around the subject in Season 1. For those unfamiliar with Edward, the Duke of Windsor (Alex Jennings), and his ties to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, the disdain characters have toward him might seem a little harsh. However, when learning the full extent of Edward's admiration and collusion with Hitler in Episode 6, "Vergangenheit," viewers realize alongside Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) that this joker needed to be booted from Britain.

The reveal of Edward's alliance with Hitler plays out on The Crown as all the Netflix drama's storylines do: the top secret information is doled out delicately, set to the swell of violins, as a doe-eyed Foy shudders under its weight.

TheCrown_203_Unit_00706_R Claire Foy and Pip Torrens in "The Crown" Season 2. Netflix

At first, on The Crown, the Marburg Files are unearthed by the Allied forces, and though Britain's government wants to stall on publishing them, the Americans push for transparency. This leads to Queen Elizabeth being briefed on some of the content regarding her uncle, the Duke of Windsor. She has a conversation with him and decides, without the full story, that as the head of the church of England, she has an ethical obligation to forgive him.

Of course, things get messier when the Queen tells Tommy Lascelles (Pip Torrens) she's willing to forgive Edward. He answers curtly through his mustache, "Before you make your decision, ma'am, I believe you should be in full possession of the facts." According to Lascelles, "The Duke of Windsor made his loyalties clear as soon as he became King."

Lascelles calls Edward's chosen court fellows known Nazis, and says the British government stopped briefing Edward on matters of national security; they believed he may have been involved in treasonous activities. When he abdicated the throne, Edward took his wife to visit Hitler in Germany. Lascelles claims the duke plotted to overthrow Elizabeth's father, reinstate himself as king and give Hitler and the Nazis freedom to prowl Western Europe. Lascelles even alludes to Edward having visited a concentration camp, though he adds, "Of course, the full horrors were yet to come, but nonetheless, he visited."

TheCrown_206_Unit_00035_R_CROP Alex Jennings portrays the Duke of Windsor. Netflix

Just when it appears that Elizabeth cannot handle more bad news, Lascelles asks for permission to continue. He alleges that Edward colluded further with the Nazis, informing them that the Allied Forces had seized Hitler's military plans, which "gave Germany time to change its plan" and eventually take control of Paris. Finally, Lascelles adds, as the anxious-sounding score enters the frame, Edward assured the Germans that Britain would fall to Nazi control as well, as long as the bombing of his own citizens continued.

In response to all this information about her uncle, Elizabeth denies him a job in British government and exiles him and his wife from the country. The episode is harrowing, of course, but does it align perfectly with the historical truth?

duke duchess windsor The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in England, 1939. Getty Images

Edward, Elizabeth, and the Nazis

What we know about Edward's trip to Germany, while it was under the rule of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, is that Hitler himself concluded that "the Duke of Windsor was an advocate of the Nazi cause and could be of future use," according to The New York Times and Philip Ziegler's biography of Edward VIII. According to Vanity Fair, the plan to reinstate Edward as a puppet king under the Nazi regime was hatched three years after Edward and his wife visited Hitler, as opposed to being concocted on that very trip (as it appears in The Crown).

The intercepted telegrams that suggested Edward was in on the plot surfaced in 1953, and Winston Churchill (with Dwight Eisenhower behind him) tried to cover up the documents, alleging that they were "tendentious and unreliable," according to The Guardian. We do see Churchill, in the episode's cold open, tell the king and gathered dignitaries that the Marburg Files (specifically the Windsor File incriminating Edward) cannot see the light of day, but his reasoning for hiding them isn't explored at length.

Some British historians, including Carolyn Harris, maintain Churchill's argument and believe that Edward wasn't aware of the plot to make him King of England (under Hitler). According to The BBC, Harris says Edward's motives in meeting Hitler were "peaceful" and more about finding a place in government for himself and his wife after abdicating the throne. The BBC also points out that Edward's assistant, Sir Dudley Forwood, later said that the entire trip to Germany was about making the Duchess of Windsor feel included in state affairs. According to Forwood, Edward wanted his new, American bride to feel important, even if she had to (figuratively) step over the bodies of Hitler's victims to do it.

wallis simpson American socialite Wallis Simpson (nee Bessie Wallis Warfield) (1896 - 1986) a week before King Edward VIII abdicated. She became Duchess of Windsor in June 1937 after her marriage to Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor. Getty Images

Royal biographer Andrew Morton, author of "17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History," found a way to condemn Edward's ignorance and suggest that he was indeed a Nazi sympathizer, though Britain tried its best to keep that a secret. "[Edward] was certainly sympathetic...even after the war he thought Hitler was a good fellow and that he'd done a good job in Germany, and he was also anti-Semitic, before, during and after the war," Morton wrote.

Though no one can say for sure exactly why Edward brought his wife to meet Hitler, it's safe to say he at least sympathized with some part of the Nazi regime, which makes him, in the most literal sense of the term, a Nazi sympathizer.

Edward was appointed governor of the Bahamas during the controversy surrounding his Nazi ties, and after a stint there, he lived out the rest of his life in France. The Crown does touch on Edward's time in the Bahamas, which Elizabeth informs him was a tactic to keep him away from the war in the mainland, but it doesn't do much with Edward's character beyond making Elizabeth confront him. If Edward was involved with Hitler and the Nazis, which historical documents seem to suggest, it feels especially hollow to remember that he simply lived out his life of luxury in France, socially ostracized but not tried for treason.

The Crown Season 2 is streaming on Netflix.